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Tag: Artist compensation

Artist compensation

Getting Started with Music Policy

The following post was written by Audrey Harrer, the Associate Creative Director of Online Learning Media. Audrey is a multimedia producer and studied composition and film scoring here at Berklee. Her work is experimental, and she is particularly interested in the space where music and drama collide.

Where are you allowed to perform music and dance? What is your music worth? How loud is too loud?

Policies are what define these things. They can be government policies, school policies, or just the rules around your house. Policies are laws, guidelines, or methods of practice that guide our principles and behaviors. In modern society, we live in a matrix of policies that define everything from our food and shelter, to our art.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit 2012 in Washington DC. It was a densely packed day of influential presenters, from Sen. Ron Weyden of Oregon to Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, discussing, sharing and debating the issues of today’s musicians. Topics explored included the Internet Radio Fairness Act, artist compensation, and online music technologies. The Future of Music Coalition focuses on “education, research and advocacy for musicians,” and it works to affect government and industry policies in a positive way on musicians’ behalf. A major sentiment that echoed throughout the Summit was that more musicians need to be involved in policy making.

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Future of Music Series: Internet Streaming Revenue

Any discussion on the future of artist compensation is incomplete without mentioning the potential for revenue generated by internet streaming. The performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) collect and distribute performance revenue for the owners of copyrighted musical works. Those entities do not however collect revenue for the online streaming of sound recordings owed to owners of the sound recording copyright. This responsibility has been exclusively granted by The Copyright Royalty Board (under the authority of the Library of Congress) to the non-profit organization, SoundExchange. SoundExchange collects digital performance royalties generated by the streaming of sound recordings over satellite radio (like Sirius XM), internet radio (like Pandora), and cable television music channels, on behalf of featured recording artists, master rights owners (like record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters.

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Future of Music Series: The Role of Video

Artist compensation has changed, and artists who previously used touring and record sales as primary sources of income, are compelled to find additional revenue streams. Can the exposure opportunity offered on YouTube for music videos result in noteworthy revenue?  Can it help to establish your artist identity? The popular rock band OK Go made a rather unintentional entre into the world of online music videos with a video that cost just a few dollars to create.  The band created the video unbeknownst to the label, and when they showed it to the head of digital marketing, he said, “If this gets out, you’re sunk.” The label was obviously wrong, and OK Go eventually became famous, not only for their music, but also for the treadmill, marching band, and end love YouTube videos among others. Band member, Damian Kulash, spoke on Tuesday at the 2010 Future of Music Policy Summit sponsored by the Future of Music Coalition here in Washington DC.

As for OK Go, the videos have undoubtedly added to the band’s revenue though the exact amount is difficult to measure. Damian says that OK Go has a video fan base that consists of some people who “would never buy a ticket for a rock show” and “some of the people who watch our videos don’t even know that we are a band.”  Still he says that a segment of video fans do purchase tickets, merchandise, and downloads.  As for sponsorship and product placement in the videos, Damian said that while the band exercises caution in this area, OK Go is able to show potential marketers exactly how many hits their videos are likely to generate, which means potential revenue for the band, even after what ranges from a $5,000 investment for the treadmill video to over $400,000 for another.

I asked Damian which comes first, the music or the video, and he insists that the music still comes first.

“Music has always been a social and passionate engagement for me,” he says. “The music simply provides a backdrop for the video that the band envisions and really lives a life of it’s own.”

The band’s creativity also extends beyond music and video to merchandise sales. For example, to connect with fans (more than for the revenue generating opportunity), OK Go sold thirteen of the marching band outfits in their video for about $90 a piece.

Other artists attending the Summit, felt like musician Rebecca Gates who said, “I struggle with the combination of audio and video because I am a musician and it’s about what you hear. I am not a filmmaker. . . ”

Perhaps the most important point that came out of this discussion was that video is a choice. It is not the only way to promote an artist’s work and create revenue, but it is one effective way.


Shai Littlejohn

Shai Littlejohn is an attorney in the music industry, singer-songwriter and Professional Music major at Berklee. She is currently interning with the Future of Music Coaliton, an artist’s rights lobby and advocacy group in Washington DC. Though late November, Shai will work as an integral member of the coalition team in developing, organizing and promoting both the Future of Music Policy Summit as well as the Dear New Orleans Benefit Rock Show.

Follow Shai on Twitter for continuing tips and updates on music law and policy at

See also:

Future of Music Series: The Shrinking Pie

Future of Music Series: Setting the Stage on Music Policy

Future of Music Series: Shai Littlejohn

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